Covid-19 might not have gone away, but many places are lifting various restrictions on movement and socializing. For a lot of us, this means suddenly having to be more social (in person) than you might have been in a good couple of years. You might have been working at home and rarely seeing friends or family. Now that things are changing, getting back out there can seem like a huge challenge.
What if you’ve forgotten how to speak to people? How do you meet new people or even socialize with the people you already know? Everything can feel a little awkward, but there are things you can do to get back out there and start spending time with people again.
If you’re not yet ready to get out there and start seeing other people regularly, you might benefit from a few practice conversations first. Speaking to people online or over the phone can be good practice for when you’re ready to start talking to people in person. Of course, it can be a little different to seeing people face-to-face, but it can still help you to grease the wheels and get yourself used to conversation again. You could even try using free chat line trials or speak to people over video calls so it’s more like an in-person chat. Start with people you know and work up to speaking to people who you’re not so familiar with.
Acknowledge the Awkwardness
Sometimes, the best thing to do when everything is a bit awkward is to simply say it. You can find that people are often very receptive and sympathetic if you just tell them that you’re feeling a bit nervous or awkward. In fact, many people will be feeling the same thing and will be glad that you brought it up. Acknowledging that you haven’t seen someone in a long time or that everything feels a bit strange can break the ice and ironically make things less awkward. Don’t be afraid to come right out and say that your socializing skills are a bit rusty.
Start with People You Know
Before you need to start seeing people you’ve never met in person (perhaps a new colleague you’ve only spoken to online), try hanging out with those you are more familiar with. Whether it’s friends, family, or coworkers, arrange to spend some time with them so that you can catch up. Even that may be a little difficult at first if you haven’t spent much time together lately. But you can find that you soon start to feel comfortable around each other again. If you don’t, perhaps it’s a sign you’ve drifted apart or were never really compatible in the first place.
If you haven’t spent much time with other people recently, the last thing you want to do is probably go to a long, busy event. You don’t want to suddenly be thrown into a weekend getaway or a teambuilding event at work. Finding opportunities to start small and socialize with others for just a short time will help you to build up to something bigger. Look for opportunities to spend just a few hours, maximum, talking to other people. You’ll be able to extract yourself when you need to, whether it’s to take a short break or to make your excuses and go home.
Be Kind to Yourself
It can be tough to get back into seeing other people regularly when you’re out of practice. One thing to recognize is that a lot of things might have changed. Although they can change again, it’s a good idea to recognize your current limits. Maybe you can’t hang out with people as long as you used to. Perhaps there are people who you no longer like or enjoy spending time with. You might need to take more breaks or avoid taking on too much so that you have the energy to do the things that you want to do. Having compassion towards yourself can help to make things easier.
Set Your Own Boundaries
Being able to set certain boundaries can make you feel more comfortable when you’re around other people. Whether you let other people know your boundaries or they’re just promises that you make to yourself, it can help to have some rules for what you are and aren’t comfortable with. This goes for maintaining some Covid rules for yourself too. Everyone has different levels of comfort, and you might not want to stand too close to people, hug, shake hands, or do various other things. You might prefer to wear a mask or protect yourself in other ways, so make sure you set your own boundaries and respect other people’s too.
Dealing with Anxiety
If socializing again is making you feel anxious, there are a few things you can do to address the anxiety. If it’s particularly bad and prevents you from living your life, you might benefit from seeing a therapist or other professional to find the right solution. However, if it’s only mild, the best way to deal with it is probably to face the situations that are making you anxious. The more you practice, the easier it will get to socialize without feeling anxious. When you have feelings of anxiety, take deep breaths and use other coping strategies to get through it. Some people find that techniques such as meditation and mindfulness can help them.
Remember that socializing with others should be enjoyable. While not everything will be fun (no one really likes work meetings), there are plenty of opportunities for you to get together with friends again and even meet new people. Even if you’re feeling nervous, you have probably missed seeing other people regularly in some way. Take the opportunity to have fun and spend time with others instead of having to communicate with everyone over the phone or online. It can be much easier to keep the conversation flowing in person once you get into it.
Getting back out there might be difficult, but there are lots of things that you can do to start being social again and feel comfortable while doing so.